Analysis of the Character Walter in “A Raisin in the Sun”
Everyone in America wants to achieve some sort of financial success in his or her life. Sometimes living in a capitalistic society entices many to become too materialistic. Greed is the characteristic that many Americans then attain. This is all in pursuit of the American dream. For most Americans, this high status is very difficult to achieve. In Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun”, she examines an African-American family’s struggle to break out of the poverty that is preventing them from achieving some sort of financial stability, or the “American Dream”. It focuses on Walter’s attempt in “making it,” or “being somebody.” She also analyzes how race prejudice and economic insecurity affects a black mans role in his own family, his ability to provide, and his identity. What Hansberry is trying to illustrate is how Western civilization has conditioned society to have materialistic aspirations and how these ideals corrupt the black man’s identity and his family.
Many black men have to deal with a systematic racism that effects their role in society. The frustrations that a black man has to deal with can affect the family a great deal. For example, if Walter gets upset at work or has a bad day, he can’t get irate with his boss and risk loosing his job; instead he takes it out on his wife Ruth. Also, the job that he holds can only provide so much to the family. He’s not even capable of providing his son Travis with some pocket change without becoming broke himself. What type of “breadwinner” can a black man be in America?
Walter Younger is thirty-five years old and all he is, is a limousine driver. He is unhappy with his job and he desperately seeks for an opportunity to improve his family standing. He tells his mother how he feels about his job when she wouldn’t give him the ten thousand dollars; ” I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, “Yes sir; no sir, very good sir; shall I take the Drive, sir?” Mama, that ain’t no kind of job… that ain’t nothing at all. (Very quietly) Mama, I don’t know if I can make you understand”. (1222) Walter is not able to provide for his family by American standards, and as a result, his family lives in poverty.
The poverty they experience is noticeable in their living arrangements. In the very beginning of the play we see how a family of five shares a one bedroom, dilapidated apartment, on Chicago’s south side. Also, the Youngers only had use of a communal restroom that they shared with the other tenants. Living on the south side of Chicago doesn’t exactly represent the “American Dream” that Walter so desperately wants to obtain. In this part of town there are no big yards or picket fences where most white American kids have while growing up. Here, on the south side of Chicago the son Travis is only exposed to the concavity of the inner city and the milieu of the projects.
The predicament that Walter finds himself in motivates him to want to invest in a liquor store in order to grasp some type of financial freedom. He doesn’t just want to have enough money to provide for his family, but he tells his mother, “I want so many things”(1222). He is obsessed with earning a lot of money. At the beginning of the play Walter is waiting for Mama’s check from the insurance company as if it was his own, and Beneathea has to remind Walter that, “that money belongs to Mama, Walter and its for her to decide how she wants to spend it”. (1205) Here we see how Walter is brainwashed into America’s materialistic and greedy manner. Walter has been corrupted by society and unlike his sister Beneatha, he doesn’t even have a desire to find his identity through his African heritage. He is searching for his identity with money.
The story takes a drastic change when Mama says: “What you never understood is that I aint